The Latino Leaders Summit on Diabetes took place Thursday to develop strategies for reducing diabetes rates amongst local Latinos. Almost 40 members of the community participated in the event, which was hosted by the William Sansum Diabetes Center. County Supervisor Salud Carbajal gave the welcome address.
Many in attendance expressed an interest in participating in a community task force aimed at coordinating local prevention programs and educators. Director of Research and Innovation Dr. David Kerr said the William Sansum Diabetes Center would act as a “hub and spoke” for local organizations’ efforts. “We need to set up a local system which would be a safety net for people living with poorly controlled diabetes,” he said.
Diabetes disproportionately affects Latinos nationwide, said Rem Lann, Executive Director of the William Sansum Diabetes Center; 17% of American Latinos have diabetes, compared to 7% of non-Hispanic whites, and they face three times the rate of death. Latinos also experience more complications such as amputation, heart attack, stroke, blindness, and erectile dysfunction.
Director of Education Sandy Andrews said economic and cultural barriers are to blame for the high rates, as well as a lack of health literacy and education. Health educator Mary Conneely said the high-sugar foods and sedentary culture of America are difficult for Latino immigrants to healthfully adjust to. “When people from Mexico, Guatemala, or other Latin American countries come to the United States, their lifestyle changes completely,” she said. “They are used to walking to church, to the market, to the school, but when they come here, their way of transportation is a car.”
Health educator Marissa Duprey announced the William Sansum Diabetes Center’s plan to launch a Semilla de Cambio smartphone app, based on their gestational diabetes prevention program for expecting Latina women, Semillas de Cambio. Duprey also heralded #GuiltfreeSB, a fledgling partnership program with local restaurants advertising diabetes friendly menu items. The Center hopes to make Santa Barbara the most diabetes friendly city in the world, she said.
Though all agreed there was a problem, several in the audience expressed concern at the idea of a one-size-fits all solution for the diverse community of Latinos in the area. Others mentioned the economic pressures, family dynamics, and deportation fears that often delay treatment. Many agreed on the efficacy of disseminating diabetes education through churches, schools, and community organizations.
Director of Research and Innovation Dr. David Kerr said event organizers were pleased with the turnout and the number of task force volunteers. He hopes the concentrated efforts of local organizations will make diabetes care more accessible to local Latinos.
“We now know more people who are involved, we have a sense there is agreement, and we have people willing to help us. Through churches and other community organizations, the economic and cultural barriers come right down,” he said. “Something can be done and it can be affordable, and we won’t be reporting people to the immigration authority,” he added.